Artist Rebecca Westcott with Curator Frank Goodyear
Frank Goodyear, curator at the National Portrait Gallery, discusses works by artist Rebecca Westcott, on view in the exhibition "Portraiture Now: Communities." Frank Goodyear spoke on June 5, 2010. The exhibition is on view through July 5, 2010. More on the exhibition can be found at: http://www.npg.si.edu/exhibit/communities/ In 1998 Rebecca Westcott received a B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design, where she met her future husband, artist Jim Houser. They moved to Philadelphia, where they joined a circle of influential artists in the Space 1026 collective, whose work was influenced by the underground D.I.Y. ("Do-it-Yourself") street-art movement. Westcott also embraced the traditions of figurative painting, creating personal likenesses of her young friends, often artists in Philadelphia, that drew on the modernist portraits of Alice Neel and David Hockney, with color notes from Cy Twombly. Westcott noted in 2001, "I celebrate the nature of my subjects by revealing their imperfections." She worked from multiple photographs beginning with an underdrawing in red paint and working quickly in both acrylic and oil paints to achieve her minimalist, yet affectionate, characterizations, embellishing her handmade and distressed foamboard supports with calligraphy taken from advertising or symbols that were meaningful to her subjects. Often she installed her portraits with images she made that reflected her decidedly domestic interests—such as plants and recipes. Just before her accidental death in 2004, she had a solo show, "Homemade," at the SPECTOR Gallery in Philadelphia, and was one of the youngest artists to be awarded the prestigious Pew Fellowship in the Arts.